On a road trip to Safeco Field, the Mariners take five of six

Especially against the Red Sox on Wednesday, the home team seemed unfamiliar – with losing. It was embarrassing. For Boston. It was a Seattle sweep.
Especially against the Red Sox on Wednesday, the home team seemed unfamiliar – with losing. It was embarrassing. For Boston. It was a Seattle sweep.

The astonishing part about the Seattle Mariners winning back-to-back series so far during the final Safeco Field stand before the All-Star Game break is that they didn't even seem to have the home-field advantage. Taking a pair from the Cincinnati Reds came amid a prolonged maudlin display of affection for Ken Griffey Jr., who was feted and cheered in ways the Mariner Moose never even imagined for himself. Three tiffs with the Red Sox were attended by so many mouthy Boston partisans that the odd M's fan might have felt he or she had gotten stuck with the entire cast of extras from some mediocre Martin Scorsese movie, or even a lousy one such as The Departed. But five times out of six the M's prevailed. It was partly because of their all-stars but mostly due to guys who might not warrant recognition for an all-triple-A team. For every Ichiro heroic (my favorite was picking a fly ball out of the laser gleam of the afternoon sun Wednesday, June 27), there was a grab or timely hit from Ben Broussard. For every J.J. Putz strikeout (how 'bout K.K. Putz?) there was a critical single or stolen base by Willie Bloomquist. When Seattle guys must have been feeling like visitors in their own yard during Wednesday's finale with the Sox, Jamie Burke bettered his .400 season's average, the back-up catcher doubling for his club's first hit in the third. Ichiro followed with an RBI dunker and the M's led 1-0. They'd win 2-1 in 11 innings when Jose Lopez hit one off the left-field wall, scoring Ichiro. By then Burke had thrown out a runner trying to take second. He'd also called an excellent start from young left-hander Ryan Feierabend, who'd been hammered his previous appearance by Griffey and company. Broussard, Bloomquist and Burke: The B Team. One could understand the display for Griffey, the indispensable entity of Seattle professional sports. Without him there probably wouldn't have been a Refuse to Lose season in 1995. Without that there probably wouldn't have been the new facilities that house a pair of what were potential runaway pro franchises now permanently at home in Seattle. The love-in with Griffey (he returned the affection in deed and word) was a collective attempt to show all parties the efficacy of bringing the superstar back to Safeco to finish out his doddering career years. Griffey clearly enjoyed playing along with such a scenario. At one point he observed that center fielders, when they slow down, often migrate to right field, left, first base, and designated hitter. At 37, the erstwhile "Kid" looked and played as though he could conceivably coax a half-dozen more seasons out of his not-always-well-conditioned body. He could do it on an American League team, anyway. It could be he wasn't just teasing about wanting to end his career in Seattle. What remains unclear from the recent Seattle series is the apparent support here for the pennant-contending Red Sox. Is this the front-runner mentality, or is it fond memories of a franchise the officials and fans of which were reluctant to integrate during the 1950s and '60s? Do a lot of Seattle fans have ties to Boston? Were their parents and grandparents among the unappreciative at Fenway who treated Ted Williams like a pariah rather than the game's best pure hitter who gave up his baseball prime to fight in two wars? And what Red Sox contemporaries do these Seattle sycophants admire? Manny Ramirez, who not only looks but often plays as those he's wearing his pajamas (his slumber-party apparel may have kept him from getting to that winning Lopez hit in the 11th)? Shortstop Julio Lugo, 0-for-31 through June 27? Ah, well, maybe the M's will be better received when they host Toronto through July 1, though maybe not. All those Canucks will be down to support their country's remaining big-league team. And at least Seattle "fans" will be able to cite one legitimate reason for pulling for the other club in that Canada has a much more tuneful national anthem than we do.


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